7 Restaurant promotion ideas to kick off a marketing campaign

In the US, there are over 660,755 restaurants.

If you own a restaurant or are looking to open one, you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd and attract customers.

Thankfully, this doesn’t have to be difficult.

With some simple-yet-unique restaurant promotion ideas, you can engage your customers and keep them coming back for more.

Let’s find out how, while also looking at some stellar restaurant promotions from 2018.

Restaurant promotion ideas for social media

There are so many ways you can engage with your customers via social media. From must-enter competitions to taking the perfect Instagram-able picture, here are three great ideas:

1. Host competitions and giveaways.

With so many restaurants to choose from, you’ll often need to entice customers to book a table at your restaurant.

Not only will a contest or giveaway grab their attention but it’ll also get their juices flowing for the delicious food you have to offer. And if you encourage them to share the competition with their friends and family, it’ll boost your online following as well.

Therefore, to get the most from your competition or giveaway, make sure you’re getting customers to do several things in order to enter.

This may include:

  • Getting them to follow you on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

  • Liking your post

  • Tagging their friends in the comments section

Running one of these each month won’t cost you a lot of money (a free meal for one person, for example) but it will help you engage more customers, improving your social following in the process.

online competition example

Image Source: Pinterest

2. Make sure you’re picture-perfect.

They say that you eat with your eyes. And if you’ve ever scrolled through foodie pages on Instagram, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.

So what better way to promote your restaurant than through mouth-wateringly good photos?

Visual content is easy for customers to digest (excuse the pun) and share with friends. Be creative with your shots while keeping it real—people want to see enticing images, but ones that are realistic (i.e. Don’t photoshop so much that it doesn’t look natural.)

You might want to try some of the following:

  • Using natural lighting

  • Introducing contrasting colors or intriguing backdrops

  • Showing some behind-the-scenes shots

  • Utilizing a white background so your food speaks for itself

  • Having a single point of interest in your photo (your food, of course)

  • Adding relevant hashtags to your posts – including general ones, e.g. #foodporn, as well as geo-related ones

  • Posting on a daily basis

As well as your food, include pictures of your dining area, staff, bar, and even the kitchen. You could even start using live videos to add to this colorful picture of your restaurant.

All of this will give customers a real feel about the vibe of your restaurant.

3. Repost customer reviews.

When you’re looking for engaging content for your social media channels, some of the best stuff you’ll find is what your customers are writing about you.

For example, you could take tip #1 and host a photo contest, asking previous diners to share their favorite meal at your restaurant. Then, you can share these across your social platforms, giving the winners a free drink or appetizer for their efforts.

Equally, as you build your social following, you’ll find more and more customers tagging you in pictures from your restaurant (without needing incentivizing to do so). Be sure to share these pictures as it’ll help build the authenticity of your brand, giving you a real human element.

After all, statistics indicate that 91% of people read online reviews occasionally or regularly, with 84% trusting them as much as a personal recommendation.

Therefore, to make sure as many people are promoting your brand as possible, encourage diners to share their images on social media by using signs in your restaurant. You can even set up your own hashtag so finding these images is a breeze.

Restaurant promotion ideas for emails

Email marketing is a fantastic way to engage with customers and build long-lasting relationships. Emails are also the perfect way to get across various messages and promotions. Here’s how:

4. Send regular emails with discounts, deals, and points for loyalty programs.

From the latest updates about your restaurant to the hottest specials you’re serving up that week, this is a sure-fire way to tickle your audience’s taste buds.  

Loyalty programs are a fantastic way to boost sales—and make it far easier to get hold of your customers’ elusive email addresses.

You can get people to sign up for this through a social media campaign or a simple pop-up on your website. You might even want to create posters about the program for your restaurant.

A discount or free dessert after a certain number of visits will keep customers coming back for more. This email from Olive Garden is one of the best restaurant advertisement examples out there!

Olive Garden loyalty program
Image Source: Really Good Emails

Then, as you start to build up a formidable email list, you can craft a fantastic email marketing campaign. One that incorporates even more fabulous restaurant marketing ideas and trends that will skyrocket your businesses success.

For example, some great email ideas include:



  • Events: Hosting a themed night, doing a special menu, or celebrating your restaurant’s anniversary? Then let your die-hard customers know about it so they can be the first to book a table for the event.

  • Specials: To entice regular customers who know your menu back to front, dish out some specials every once in a while (weekly or monthly, for example). This will capture their attention and bring them back to your table.

  • Discounts: Continue to build loyalty with your customers by showing your appreciation with exclusive discounts. You might offer them a free dessert or 10% off their next meal, for instance. Or, you could find out their birthday so you can email them an extra-special discount for their big day. Creating these types of automated emails with the likes of Emma helps keep your brand in front of customers, but without loads of hard work on your end.

  • Updates: Make sure your loyal customers are the first to know about any changes or exciting announcements. From special guests that are visiting to new menus, this is the perfect opportunity to get in touch with them.

Nando's loyalty program


Image Source: Really Good Emails

Restaurant promotion ideas for advertising

Now that you’ve got your social media and email promotions in place, you may want to tie this in with some paid (and free) advertising. This further adds to your reach and builds on those existing campaigns you’re running.

5. Boost your social media posts for further reach.

Paid advertising is a fantastic way to reach a larger audience. All you need to do is pay to boost your posts and this will increase both your engagement and brand awareness.

Why is this important?

According to research, brands only tend to reach 6% of their audience when they don’t use paid ads. This is why more than 90% of social media advertisers have turned to Facebook Ads in recent years.

This is also why social media is being dubbed “pay-to-play.”

So to better engage with your audience, you’ll need to back up your best posts with some cash. And the best content to do this with is those promotions, competitions, and giveaways.

By paying to boost these, you’ll guarantee your business more likes, entries, shares, and comments, improving the overall interaction you have on these social channels.

For short promotions, i.e. special offers that are running for one weekend, you may opt for a week-long promotion with a budget of around $10-20 to test it out. Or, for longer promotions, i.e. competitions, you may run these for a month with a much larger budget.

The great thing is, you can tailor these promotions to your business, budget, and goals.

6. Optimize and update your “Google My Business” listing.

Taking over from Google+ Local, Google My Business is a free offering from the search engine giant, and one that’s well worth taking advantage of.

It’s designed to help Google’s users easily find the store/restaurant they’re looking for—often from their smartphones while they’re on the go. The listing appears within the searches on the right-hand side, giving your brand optimum visibility.

Within the listing you can include your phone number, opening hours, and location, and it also features recent customer reviews with ratings (up to 5 stars).

As an easy way for people to locate your restaurant and see what others are saying about it, it’s a fantastic way to get your brand out there and add to its credibility. That’s why you’ll want to ensure information is consistent in these listings and that you regularly make sure it’s all up to date.

7. Engage food bloggers and influencers.

While you can’t strictly call this “advertising,” as it would be wrong to pay bloggers to write a positive review of your restaurant, this is the perfect way to showcase your business.

Invite prestigious food bloggers and industry influencers to your eatery to try it out, perhaps offering them a discount or appetizer to secure their booking. Ask them if they would like to share their experience and review your restaurant online.

Asking someone for a positive review is unfair but asking them for an objective review isn’t. And thanks to their large online following, this can have a massive impact on your restaurant bookings. When your restaurant is mentioned by big names in the food industry, especially in a very good light, you’re likely to get some traffic from their audience as well. It’s a classic example of mixing audiences online via influencer outreach.

Promote a restaurant marketing campaign through trial and error

For some restaurants, their marketing efforts are very scattered. They try a lot of different things, and not everything works at optimal levels on the first try. This isn’t a bad thing. No matter what type of campaign you’re running, you’re learning with every move you make.

You could be sending out email offers, putting new content on your social profiles, or even paying for advertisements. In all cases, you can track your progress and see which efforts are most successful. While early efforts are expected to bring a little less success in some cases, they can also provide the greatest insight.

Do special deals bring in big traffic? Have a particular set of keywords or hashtags generated a lot of buzz? Did one set of parameters on paid ads bring more success than you’ve expected? No matter which method you’re using to promote a restaurant marketing campaign, learning from your efforts is important for building momentum.

Once you know what works (and what doesn’t), you can alter your efforts accordingly moving forward. It’s just like finding that menu dish people can’t get enough of and bringing it back again and again.

Wrap up

These restaurant promotion ideas are a great place to start with your marketing efforts, and they don’t need to take a lot of time or money.

Rather, it’s all about building a following through trusted, engaging content that appeals to your diner’s senses!

Ready to learn more? Then check out our blog on email marketing for restaurants.

About the Author

Lane Harbin is a senior content marketing manager at Emma. When she’s not geeking out over email marketing, she enjoys binge-listening to podcasts, catching up on the latest tech news, and constantly rearranging her living room.

More Content by Lane Harbin

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